September 4, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
FOR SOME TIME, the funniest "person" on TV has been Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, as performed by Bob Smigel for Late Night
With Conan O'Brien. The other night at the MTV Music Video Awards, Triumph was attempting to interview music star Eminem when things got
ugly. For some reason, Eminem didn't want to be interviewed by a snotty puppet and...well, I'm not sure what happened. But a friend who
works on Mr. O'Brien's show says they're running the tape on tonight's show (the one that airs Thursday morn at 12:35 AM in most markets) and that
it's the funniest thing he's ever seen. So you might want to see. If you miss it, it'll rerun the following day on Comedy Central.
WHICH REMINDS ME: Video recorders, be they VHS or TiVo, have an option to record a show that airs Monday through Friday.
When will someone include an option to record Tuesday through Saturday? Lots of shows that air in the early morning, like Conan O'Brien and
Last Call and Craig Kilborn's program actually air Tuesday through Saturday, as will Jimmy Kimmel's forthcoming show. On the websites for
these shows, they all list their upcoming broadcasts in terms of Monday through Friday but you can't program a VCR to believe that an airing that
starts at 1:30 AM Tuesday is a Monday show.
THE FOLLOWING IS FROM the Bloomberg News Service. The Disney folks had a big meeting in New York to unveil the ABC
schedule to advertisers. Jimmy Kimmel, who's taking over the late night slot after Nightline, took the stage...
"I could be the best thing to happen to this network since Mike Ovitz joined the Disney empire and took all your money," Kimmel
said, referring to the $140 million severance pay Disney gave its former president after ousting him in 1996, 15 months into the job.
Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner, 60, seated in the seventh row, stretched his long legs into the aisle
and didn't crack a smile.
September 3, 2002 · 3:00 PM PDT ·
AND IT'S OFF TO THE PRINTER with Mad Art, a celebration of the Usual Gang of Idiots who have drawn Mad Magazine
for the last half-century. It's coming out in October or maybe early November from Watson-Guptill and it's full of peachy drawings by those
guys, and lengthy biography and discussion by the operator of this website, who interviewed just about everyone who ever drew for the mag (including,
years ago, gents who are no longer with us). You can advance order this baby from Amazon by clicking here. If you have a lick of sense about you, you will.
Then again, if you had a lick of sense you wouldn't be reading this website.
SEEMS LIKE all the prominent Republicans and right-wing newspapers are giving up on Bill Simon, G.O.P. candidate for
governor. This will mean four more years of Gray Davis...a fact I blame wholly on Simon. If Davis were running unopposed, he'd lose.
DOES BUSH NEED Congressional approval before he declares war on Iraq? Again, from a practical standpoint, no one may be
able to stop him, law or no law. But to the extent the law matters, it's explained well (I think) by John Dean and here's the link to see him explain it.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WEEK to my friend of 30-some-odd years, Master Cartoonist Scott Shaw! You can see his fine handiwork in
recent Simpsons comic books, and read his daily explorations of bizarre funnybooks over at his page at Comic Book Resources. Merry week and many more!
I AM EMBARRASSED to be informed by (so far) Kevin Greenlee, Jim Hill, Mark Mayerson and Michael Goldberg that the "Bye Bye Baby"
number in the Evian commercial is originally from the show Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Why am I embarrassed? Because, as noted here, I saw this show performed about six months ago. Well, I knew I knew it from somewhere. Jim thinks
the choral arrangement in the commercial is a direct lift from the movie with Marilyn Monroe, which I don't seem to have in my collection.
September 3, 2002 · 3:00 AM PDT ·
I NOTICE THAT this year's Jerry Lewis Telethon was directed by Artie Forrest, who I mentioned here earlier. Someone ought
to do a big, high-profile article on this man who may hold the current record for directing the most talk shows, game shows, variety shows, awards
shows and telethons of any man alive. (He's lately been directing alternate episodes of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?) When I worked
with Artie, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to direct a six-camera live show while simultaneously telling bawdy jokes to everyone in the
Once upon a time, he was Jackie Gleason's favorite cameraman. This was back on the Dumont network. Every week on his
program, Gleason would do a five minute pantomime routine in his character of The Poor Soul, and he would never rehearse it. Shortly before the
broadcast — and remember, this is live television — Gleason would take Artie onto the set and tell him, "Okay, I'm going to enter
on the left and then I'll move over here, and then I'll do some crap and then run over to the right. Then I'll either come downstage or go back
out to the left and then run back in. And after that, I don't know what I'll do but whatever it is, keep it all on camera and in focus."
And that was it. Artie would have to cover Gleason running all over the stage with no real idea where he might move next.
Amazingly, he usually managed it...but he developed nerves of titanium. Directing Jerry has got to be a comparative cinch.
George S. Kaufman wrote the Marx Brothers' first "book" musical that played Broadway. It was called Cocoanuts and it
tended to vary from night to night as Groucho, Harpo, Chico and sometimes even Zeppo ad-libbed and threw in inside jokes and generally departed from
One night during a performance, Kaufman was backstage talking with newsman Heywood Broun. Broun noticed Kaufman seemed distracted
and asked what was wrong.
"I may be wrong," the playwright said. "But I think I just heard one of the original lines."
TO ANSWER a couple of questions about our new feature, Great Show Biz Anecdotes: These tales are either true or
they ought to be. A lot of the best tales of this sort are unverifiable but in the context of the entertainment industry, it almost doesn't
matter. They're good stories.
WHENEVER I make a typo on this site (which is, like, every posting), I immediately receive a flurry of e-mails catching
it. The first two are usually from Gordon Kent and Rephah Berg, not necessarily in that order. Ongoing thanks to both of you.
September 2, 2002 · 1:00 PM PDT ·
A COUPLE OF FOLKS wrote to ask me if I think Jerry Lewis does his annual telethon (in progress as I write this) for selfish or
altruistic reasons. The answer, I suspect, is All of the Above. I think it's a good thing that the money is being raised for the charity,
if only because it brings a lot of aid and comfort to folks who have to live with crippling disease. Too much attention is probably focused on
the notion of actually curing dystrophy; not enough to the vast amounts of good that are done just to help its victims get through the day.
Does Jerry do it for personal glory? Probably, and I don't think it matters. The nature of telethons is that they feed egos
and hype careers. It's unavoidable and I've actually heard performers say that they don't do fund-raisers because it feels somewhat
hypocritical to derive personal benefits from something that's supposed to aid others. I think that's a reasonable, perhaps admirable
position. But I also understand that some don't see it that way and that they genuinely think it's wonderful that their performing skills can
generate a few bucks to help crippled kids.
There is much on Mr. Lewis's annual telethons that makes me cringe, especially the parade of celebs who otherwise couldn't get national
exposure. Jer not only puts them on, he extols them as great humanitarians and fiercely plugs their current appearances. Last night, he
did a hard sell that had nothing to do with Muscular Dystrophy, urging people to go see his friend Peter Bogdanovich's new movie. I wish less
of the telethon was like that but I'm afraid that's the nature of these beasts.
Years ago, I got into a friendly argument with a lovely gent named Artie Forrest, who is one of the all-time great TV directors.
Artie was then handling Jerry's telethon and was defending it to just about everyone he met. They were all saying it was tasteless; that it had
less to do with helping sick children than sick show biz careers; that Jerry was going to give himself a muscular ailment from patting himself on the
back. I told Artie that I thought it would be possible to raise even more money each year without all that ego-massage. "Perhaps," I
said, "If the telethon weren't so tacky, bigger stars would appear and larger sums would be collected."
Artie didn't disagree. But he said something that I thought was very true and very realistic. He said, approximately,
"Yeah, but Jerry raises a helluva lot of money doing it his way, and nobody else is doing anything. You can talk all you want about other ways
it might be done, and you might be right. But, in the meantime, he's buying research and wheelchairs and getting results."
The more I think about it, the more I think Artie was right. When it comes to something like this, results matter.
Because he needed the money, Orson Welles signed to appear in a play where the rest of the cast was, to put it politely,
inexperienced. He was the only real pro involved so on the first day of rehearsal, he made a little speech to the other players...
He said, "We're going to be doing this play for several weeks and the law of averages dictates that at some point, some egregious
mistake will be made. Someone will miss a cue, someone will forget a line, something will happen. When this occurs, do not panic. I
am on stage for almost the entire play and I have decades of acting experience. Every disaster that can possibly happen has happened to me and
I can handle anything...
"So when something goes wrong," he continued, "do not attempt to ad-lib. Just leave it to me. Whatever it is, I will find a
way to cover the error and continue on." The members of the novice cast were reassured by this and felt confident they were in good hands.
Things went well until opening night. In the middle of Act Two, the prop man accidentally rang a telephone in the wrong
scene. There was no phone call in that scene and all the actors on stage froze, wondering what to do. Fortunately, Mr. Welles announced,
"I'll get it," and they all relaxed, confident Orson would handle it. They knew he would answer the phone, ad-lib some sort of conversation and
then work his way back to the text of the play.
Welles picked up the phone, said hello and pretended to listen for a second. Then he turned to the actress next to him, held out
the receiver and said, "It's for you."
WE HAVE A SMART crowd browsing this site so I'm betting someone will have the answer on the tip of their modem. You know
that TV commercial for Evian water? The one with infants doing water ballet? Behind it all, a chorus is singing, "Bye Bye Baby."
Where is this song from? I know it from somewhere...
WAY BACK IN 1972, the fine comedian George Kirby starred in a short-lived syndicated comedy series entitled Half the George
Kirby Comedy Hour. According to The Internet Movie Database, I was one of the writers on
this show. This is not so and I've told them as much. Let's see how long it takes them to change the listing. Actually, I did work
with George Kirby many years later, on a project that never got off the ground. If you don't recall him, he was a very gifted black comedian
who did incredible impressions.
He headlined in Vegas and for a time, was a regular on all the talk shows. He also starred in a few other short-lived series,
such as The Copycats and Rosenthal and Jones. In 1977, he was caught trying to sell heroin to a man who turned out to be an
undercover narcotics officer. This is not a smart thing to do and Kirby was sentenced to ten years in prison. Paroled after three and a
half, he never quite got his career going again, and was reduced to playing some pretty humiliating, low-paying bookings.
In the mid-eighties, he came up with an idea for a cartoon series based around Michael Jackson's pets (the llama, Bubbles the Chimp,
etc.), and Michael liked the idea. Mainly though, The King of Pop liked the idea of helping a fellow entertainer who was down on his luck, and
so he gave the project his blessing. I was brought in to try and make something out of the idea. Unfortunately, it wasn't much of a
concept, especially when Michael declined to be animated...and at least one of the networks was uncomfortable at the idea of letting a convicted drug
dealer become involved in the production of a kids' show. (He wouldn't have been the first but for some reason, at that moment, it bothered
No one ever bought the show but Kirby didn't care too much, as he suddenly fell into a flurry of decent performing jobs. I wish
this story had a happier ending but soon after, he took ill and had to stop working. He was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and
passed away in 1995. He was a very funny man and I hope someone interviewed him extensively before he went...because he'd worked with everyone
and boy, did he have stories.
September 2, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
SO I JUST turned on the Jerry Lewis Telethon and caught Yakov Smirnoff doing a stand-up routine. I think we've answered
the question of why this man isn't getting on the late night talk shows.
BILL SHERMAN, a bright gent with whom I have a passing fandom acquaintance, has a nice review of my new book that's been posted
over at this website. Again, I never have as much respect
for a critic as when he's praising my work, but I did want to address this one line he wrote...
I'm willing to accept Evanier's narrower focus even as I wish he were as willing to hold forth on the merits of R. Crumb is he is on
famed duckman Carl Barks.
Perhaps I don't hold forth on the topic in the book because (a) I've never really met Crumb, whereas I knew Barks, (b)
I've never felt I had much to say about Crumb, and (c) I was writing about Barks because he'd died, whereas Mr. Crumb is still among the
living. I also, I'm afraid, never had quite the emotional connection to Crumb's work that I've had to Barks and many others. I admire
Crumb's skills and recognize his immense yardage in popular culture, but always felt he was writing and drawing eloquently about a world that existed
wholly in his fantasies, whereas other so-called underground artists were depicting their lives and times. Truth to tell, Gilbert Shelton's
Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers always struck me as a better marker of its era, as did the works of Guy Colwell, Justin Green, Rick Griffin, Spain
Rodriguez and several others. And some of their fantasies had a lot more to do with mine than Crumb's ever did.
That doesn't mean he's bad; just that I don't have anything to say about him. I always found it odd when I was doing the column
(and still find it the case with this webpage) that people find it a deliberate act of omission that I don't write about their favorite topic.
Some (not Bill) take it personally; like I'm demeaning their faves by not writing about them. There are plenty of things I've loved but never
got around to covering. There are also subjects where I just plain don't think I have enough info or insight to make a decent article.
About twice a month, someone writes me to complain that I've slighted Paul Frees by not having an article on my
Cartoon Voices page about him. Actual reason: I don't know enough about Mr. Frees and, unlike the other folks in that section, never worked
Nevertheless, I enjoy Bill's writing and occasionally check in at his weblog, which is located here. You might want to visit, too. Drop him a note and tell him he doesn't have nearly enough there
about Carl Barks.
So one night, Frank Sinatra is leaving Matteo's Restaurant in Westwood. The Parking Valet brings his Rolls around, whereupon
Sinatra pulls out his money clip and asks, "Kid, what's the biggest tip anyone ever gave you?
The Parking Valet replies, "Eighty dollars."
Sinatra, always eager to be tops in any category, peels off a hundred dollar bill and hands it to the young man. Then Frank asks,
"Hey, kid. Who gave you the eighty dollars?"
The Parking Valet answers, "You did, Mr. Sinatra."
September 1, 2002 · 2:00 AM PDT ·
AS MENTIONED here earlier, NBC is going to rebroadcast Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
this year in prime time, even though it's been run zillions of times in syndication and is readily available on home video. The off-network
airings have always been cut, sometimes savagely...but several folks have also asked me if the home video version is cut. They all seem to
remember it being longer when it originally ran on NBC in 1962, and some recall scenes that they're sure were there once. These people are
wrong. The other day, I was speaking with Paul Carlson, who worked on the show, and asked him. He checked with one of the editors and
back came the answer: The original version was 53 minutes. The version available on VHS and DVD is precisely the same except that they had to
trim the NBC peacock off the negative when the transfer was done.
This leads us to the question of what NBC will do since an hour of prime time programming now has more commercials and only allows for
more like 45 minutes of programming. When the original, half-hour Charlie Brown Christmas was broadcast last December, a big promotional
plus was that it would be run uncut for the first time in decades. This presented a problem since it didn't fit in what now constitutes a
half-hour of network television. Producer Lee Mendelson solved the dilemma by convincing ABC to run it in an hour slot, and he produced a
little documentary about the show's creation to fill out the 60 minutes. One doubts NBC will want to let Magoo run 90 minutes, so they'll
probably trim and perhaps speed things up a bit.
COMIC FANS: Would you like a free fanzine? The O'Neil Observer is a fine little publication, primarily devoted to
the works of DC writer-editor Denny O'Neil. Their current issue (which for some reason, has very little about Denny) is available online as a
free download. It's in the format of an Adobe Acrobat PDF file so you can download it and either read it on your screen or print it out...that
is, if you have Adobe Acrobat or their free reader installed on your computer. Here
is a link to the website for The O'Neil Observer. And if you need Adobe Reader, click
A FEW YEARS AGO on the Internet, several discussion groups and my e-mailbox were filled with questions and vague recollections
of one of the most memorable and odd novelty acts from fifties television. It was a gent called The Banana Man, who appeared often on The Ed
Sullivan Show, The Mickey Mouse Club, Howdy Doody and (most often) Captain Kangaroo. The act basically consisted of this clownlike
gent coming out on stage and taking things — mostly bananas — out of his pockets. He'd pull an amazing number of items out of his
baggy coat. Sometimes, they'd be musical instruments which he'd "play," actually supplying the sound with his mouth. Other times, they'd
be odd props which he'd use in little routines, then dump them along with all the bananas and the occasional watermelon into a steamer-type
Throughout the act, he would constantly be changing his costume. He'd wind up as a railroad engineer and he'd somehow turn the
trunk into a small, multi-car choo-choo train which he'd ride off the stage. It was a delightful, haunting little routine that some of us
vividly recall. (I can still "hear" his little la-la singing, which he'd punctuate with a loud "Wow" every time he found some new bit of
paraphernalia in his wardrobe.)
Folks my age and older kept asking about him. Apparently, video of him performing the act is hard to come by, and facts about him
were even more elusive. From an old book on vaudeville, it was known that his name was "A. Robins" (or maybe "Robbins") but that was about
Well, thank God, facts are finally emerging. Apparently, one reason it was so hard to track down info about the guy was that he
died after passing the act and name on to at least one other Banana Man. But diligent fans have ferreted out a lot of data and more seems to be
on the way. Over at this site, Bruce Johnson (aka
Charlie the Juggling Clown) has an impressive amount of biographical data. And over at this site, a gent named Rhett Bryson is building a whole webpage full of photos and facts
about the various Banana Men. This is one of the many reasons we love the Internet.
I'VE INSTALLED a new feature on this site to make it easier to read these "News" pages. Just below this paragraph, you'll find a little bar that invites you to click on it to keep reading. This will take you to the previous "NEWS from
me" page and at the bottom of that page, there's another one of those bars that will take you to the one before it...and so on. So any time you
log in here, you can just keep reading back until you hit familiar stuff. Science is always working for you at POVonline.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME